Here Are the Steps to Follow If Your Org Hits a Crisis that Put Its Reputation at Stake…

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Big and small businesses or organisations, even every mature person, hit crisis sometimes in their lifecycle. It is like piloting an aircraft; you have to be ready for the turbulence somewhere on the flight.


Inappropriate crisis management responses can flaw a business. In that way, reputations built over centuries would tumble in just a matter of hours. Sometimes, the reputation goes up in smoke and all that remains are ashes – who have anything to do with that anymore! It is therefore critical for every business and organisation to arm itself with good crisis management system or a good public relations expert.


Take for instance the crisis at British Airways, a few months ago. The airline server malfunctioned, or should we say crashed; as a result, several booked flights were cancelled. You may think a cancelled flight is a joke but if you were a business rep getting ready for a pitch in Shanghai tomorrow morning, you know what it means when you suddenly have a cancelled flight at Heathrow around 1pm. It is not funny. There were losses worth millions of pounds for individuals on business trips, executive teams on appointment; cargoes delayed, and families hoping to reunite somewhere who eventually were left heartbroken. In the end, everyone was crying hell. BBC lambasted, industry giants kicked, the customers were in hysteria.


Although British Airline scrapped through by quickly responding and making alternative arrangement for a few customers, the event put many customers on alert and chased many others to other airlines. If the losses could be easily forgotten, one thing every traveler would tuck somewhere in the subconscious is: “never count on BA”.


Crisis knows no size and it hardly picks its victims. Volkswagen has been hit (of course for a faked emission test), the Nigerian government was hit with the Ebola epidemic (of course the country stood at risk of losing investors and investment worth billions were travelers or foreigners to stay away for fear), even 2Face Idibia had to fight to save his one and only true marriage when He was reportedly caught with a missus in one of his club houses!


In sum, if crisis cannot be predicted, at least it could be prepared for. Should that loathsome event occurred in your organisation or business, here are standard approaches to keep stakeholders and customers calm as well as forestall long term reputational damage:
a.       Be Prompt to React or Be Proactive: The worst thing that can ever happen to an organisation or a business is to see first in the media that it had a crisis before it ever had a chance of knowing that it even had one. If the media gets hold of the news before you, hey! They subvert it, divert it and make it so sensational to drive traffic for their own gains with very little knowledge of the causes; thereby carelessly handling details to the detriment of the organisation.- So you have to be at alert to know when things are wrong in the business or organisation.- When you do, be the first to alert the media and assure them you are going to feed them with more information in few minutes, do not allow anyone else to do it for you. (Sincerely, this is why you have to be a good friend of the press, bloggers etc.!) 

 b.    Be Accurate: If you do not want to be found out later to be dubious with information, make sure you say it the way it was first seen such as “Yes, some of our 16kg family pack has been found to contain cancerous substances by authority ‘F’; truly, this is a new development in medicine”.

c. Show Empathy: Yes, many people are already affected. Now, express sincere empathy, like “Nobody deserves this pain; we deeply apologise”!

d. Let Them Know You Are Working to Get Things Right: Let the public know instantly through the media (but stakeholders like shareholders or other investors through personal phone calls or mail) what you are doing currently to remedy the situation i.e. you are making ‘a recall’, ‘an alternative arrangement’, ‘working with this or that regulatory bodies’, ‘sending messages’, ‘bringing relief’, ‘about setting up a refund system’ etc. Just about anything to show you a responsible business or organisation and that you respect the customers and stakeholders. This is a pressure killer, and it reduces speculations.

e. Keep Your Updates: Until the crisis is resolved do not stop updating the public and investors about latest developments. Let them climb the rung to the final solution with you so there won’t be any space for suspicions.

f. Take a Position: In fact, when it is all resolved you can position yourself as expert in crisis management in that area by organising a seminar to share learning and experience to build stronger ties with the media, the industry, investors and the customers. Doing so present you as someone who is even willing to help others; Or you may just shut your mouth, but if you do shut your mouth, many media will still do the review – as said either you do not want anyone to do these things for you because of the manhandling that can ensue!

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.

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